5. Let the Jazz Performance Begin Batouala’s Preface
Removed from the hysteria which greeted its original revelations and disengaged from subsequent political, social and historical racially focused movements, the controversy surrounding Batouala’s Preface has dissipated. Its place has been resumed by a more diffuse alienation of its audience linked to the perceived irreconcilable nature of Preface and novel, for which the Preface is largely held responsible. The lingering discomfort surrounding this chronic stalemate has been a key factor in ongoing reluctance to reappraise Batouala and a major impediment to reassessment of its literary merits.
In spite of almost a further century’s rapprochement of African and French cultures, Preface and novel continue to be discussed as discrete entities and their inharmonious relationship assumed. Keith Cameron finds the Preface “strangely detached”,536 while Ikonné bluntly questions why Maran wrote it at all.537 “Tous les critiques sont d’accord pour dire qu’il s’agit de deux ouvrages foncièrement différents l’un de l’autre”, writes Ojo-Ade.538 Edwards, alone, injects a note of caution, citing “the few passages in the novel itself that seem to echo the critique of colonialism in the preface”.539
Throughout his life, Maran insisted on a role for his Preface beyond its original immediate historical imperative. Two years before his death he confided to friend and colleague, René Violaines, thatBatouala was not issued in a Livre de Poche edition because he would not agree to the excision of the Preface. “[J]e ne l’ai jamais permis et, de mon vivant, ne m’y ← 158 | 159 →r...
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